Working life

Introduction to Psychology for critical thinking designers

2 minute read
design psychology

I seem to remember that popular physics books crowded the shelves of major bookstores about 10 years ago. Now it’s cognitive and behavioural psychology.

Over the years I have tried to put a few of the insights from these books to good use in my design process. Principles such as Intrinsic Motivation, Framing, The Anchoring Effect, Planning Fallacy and the mechanics of Choice have been useful. Learning about human behaviour has given me a clearer sense of the pitfalls I frequently face in making decisions and shed light on why users encounter difficulties with a product. 

The caveat

As we learn through these books, we mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking that these theories can solve all of our design problems. When I say I have put ‘a few’ of these insights to good use, I mean just that. 

I have seen the principles of ‘Cognitive ease and strain’ being wheeled out like some superficial gloss overlayed on design rationale.

We have seen many of these theories being crowbarred into design and marketing articles called ‘10 ways to make people use your product’ or ‘How to build a successful product with psychology’. Principles such as Cognitive ease and strain are wheeled out like some superficial gloss overlayed on design rationale.

Applying much of these methods is far too simplistic, and when we find a principle that does look relevant, we really need to implement it in a structured approach instead of superficially changing the line-height of text on your website in the hope the principles hold true. These books and research are just guides to making us think differently.

Inevitably, some of these theories are coming under criticism for being outdated (mostly from other factions in psychological and neuroscience) and ineffective sampling sizes in the research. So, it is imperative that we do not take everything we read at face value, even if it is written by a Nobel Prize winner.

 

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

psychology of design

 

Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

psychology of design

 

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

psychology of design

 

The Art Of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

psychology of design

 

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner

psychology of design

 

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

psychology of design

 

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

psychology of design

 

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel H Pink

psychology of design

1 Comment
  1. Great post, Dave, and I’ll be sure to be stuck into some of these. As luck would have it, I’m in the middle of Think Fast And Slow right now and really enjoying it.

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